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Go There–– Where Your Dragons Live

Studying yourself is not some narcissistic exercise so you can feel better about yourself and your life. It’s about taking the time to investigate what’s really going on inside you, as opposed to what you assume on a surface level appears to be true.

Self-study for self-realization takes some real digging– some working out within-– in the same way you might get after it at the gym or playing a game  seriously, to win. This is necessary to know who you really are.

It’s about understanding where your limits truly lie, instead of believing some story about what you can or cannot do that you subconsciously may have learned/told yourself a long time ago. We need continual updating to be sure that we really are living optimally, rather than settling for what’s familiar and safe.

Do you feel truly alive when static in your comfort zone, or is that merely the temporary feeling of pleasure?

In the video below, Jordan Peterson explains the reference to Carl Jung’s discovery about the human psyche: the places we are least likely to want to go are exactly the places we ought to because in filth it will be found.  Be brave. Go there––where your dragons live.

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Reflecting on Oneself as Social Animal

The “Right” Choices for YOU & The Group 

How do you balance actualizing your potential by being “YOU” and do right by “the group?”

This is a tough one! This is the inner landscapes meeting the external landscapes! Here’s the big secret that’s really no secret at all—separate landscapes don’t really exist; they are intricately and DEEPLY connected. Some believe they are the same exact thing. Throughout this entire curriculum, in almost every practice in every course, I merely ask you to look at yourself as an individual self rather than as a social self, but indeed, you encompass both, each influencing and interacting and “being with” the other. I have repeated several times how self-study will greatly improve your relationships with others.

You don’t “DO YOU” in a vacuum. You are a social being, and that is a critically important and substantial part of how you are who you are–that is,  in relationship to other people. We haven’t been talking about relationships with others in these courses because my focus is on getting you to develop a healthy relationship with yourself. That does not imply that relationships with others is any less important. We are simply paying more attention to one thing more than the other.

Noticing Imbalance & Balance

These courses work from the premise that many modern people experience an imbalance between how much and how often we focus on others and the external world, whether that means fixing others, blaming others, being responsible for others, helping others, or being manipulated by the world of social media and super-corporations, versus how much we focus on ourselves and our realization and actualization. We wish other people were more self-aware so they would treat us better, and we do need to understand how we can take back our attention and make choices to avoid unhealthy manipulation.

We wish other people would understand us, we wish the laws would change and policies would be different, and on and on it goes, but, in these course we are doing OUR OWN personal interior work, that is– what we can, and owning our small part in the social world. Hopefully we can become more response-able for ourselves and know ourselves in order for our relationships with others to improve and thrive and to be response-able enough to resist nefarious manipulation by very strong forces.

Look around at how disconnected we are from one another due to the pandemic and how polarized we are as Americans due to the state of political life. PART of the remedy is for each of us is an inside job, if we want to solve these relational problems and improve relational dynamics in our personal relationships as well as politically, socially, and globally. Certainly, other work on the “external” landscape also needs to be done as well, (reform, collective action etc…)and you can do that better if you are better, more whole and well.

Put your own house in order, so that you can participate constructively as part of the group.

In this course, you are being asked to observe your personal, individual experiences as a human being, and thus being yourself and “doing you” includes making choices in line with your values which could certainly include deciding to do collective, social and political action and making choices about family, communal, and spiritual life.

In the practice below,  observe, reflect and write about values and groups.  

Reflect on relationships you choose and those you did not choose.

Write about your group membership(s) and values.

Write about who you are in terms of the groups you belong to and those you do not. How do you qualify to be in those groups?

Are the values of the group, the same as your personal values? Are there some values that are the same and some that may be different? Is there conflict there or not? If not, why not? If so, why? Explain.

Write about your membership in the human race. How do you qualify as part of the human race?

What groups would you like to be part of and why?

What groups would you like to leave and why?

The QUESTIONS are more important than the ANSWERS

How do YOU do the right thing– right for you AND that will not harm others– that will make things better and not worse for you and others? THIS IS SO CHALLENGING! Describe an example. Note your emotions as you respond to this prompt.

How do YOU make the healthy choice that fosters wellness and peace and balance for you AND for the group? This is the same question, written slightly differently. (My point is to get you to ponder the question not to provide “the” answer.)

Reflect on and write about fairness and harm and what those terms mean to you. Notice how you FEEL, emotionally and physiologically, as you reflect and/or write about these topics. (Notice which terms you use to describe your emotions, e.g. guilty, ashamed, resentful, angry, hopeful, etc…)

How do YOU Make the correct choices in your life– to make your interior self thrive as well as the social self thrive? Explain.

Perhaps you think you are making the “right” choices for yourself, but that turns out to be false. Perhaps you think you are not making the “right” choices, but that turns out to be false. Find out what you are really up to with your personal choices and choice-making that impacts others. It will take courage to accept the truth of what you discover while noticing the resistance that comes up.

Negotiation, Sacrifice, Balance
(Give a little, get a little, sometimes, and it depends…)

You have to negotiate within yourself—amongst your inner impulses, desires, needs, thoughts and feelings, and negotiate and cooperate with others which means making compromises and sacrifice. It’s a tricky balance. Just as within you, aspects of yourself must “die” for others to grow and flourish, so too with “letting go” of desires or beliefs to allow the social body to flourish and grow. And, as you have been learning all along, this is a difficult process requiring courage to notice and manage resistance (to change, loss) and honesty accept the truth.

Try to notice yourself in terms of choice when it involves you and a group and how you sacrifice or refuse to, compromise or not, let go of your ego’s desires or not, let go of a belief or not, cooperate or not.

Trusting your gut is related to social rules and standards for survival and membership in the group, as we are social animals and need to belong and be accepted by the group. Our bodies (and minds) know this and need connection and belonging. We are bodies and emotional as you learned in the Course on Self-Awareness. We didn’t just become civil in our minds alone nor rationally make this fact about human nature up.

Our humanness tells us to play nice and cooperate. We have altruism, empathy, and compassion built into us, as well as the need for order and control. Just like you learned in the Challenge Course, self-discipline gives you more freedom. So too for the group or social organism as a whole, proper discipline is necessary, that is, good, balanced parenting that supports growth and actualization for as many of its members as possible, if not, ideally, for everyone of them.

Avoid Extremes to Be a Good Playmate!

When people behave in the extreme or pose a serious threat to the group, the group collectively decides upon discipline to maintain the balance and survival of the group. It behooves each individual in the group to discipline themselves, to become a good parent to themselves which will allow them more personal freedom. If people struggle and fail to do this and pose a threat to themselves or others, the group provides help, support, and discipline as a good parent (not an authoritarian brutal dictator!) This is the ideal, of course, which in reality never works perfectly nor consistently.

Finally, the group, parenting, mentors, and elders all model both healthy and unhealthy human choices. They model responsibility, courage, and other aspects of character and virtue as well as vices and failures, abuses of discipline, and lack of insight etc…You get to choose which models to follow and you will be held accountable for your choices by the group.

Becoming aware of your own human nature and observing social life in all its complexity is A BIG CHALLENGE. When you think about it this way, holy cow, there’s an overwhelming amount of experiences to learn from. There are so many opportunities  to choose, make good and bad, right and wrong, extreme and balanced choices, which means so many opportunities for us to be more alive and well and fully expressed as ourselves!

PROSOCIAL BEING 

Obviously, ideally, we’d like to make decisions and choices that are good for us rather than harmful, individually and collectively. And, ideally, since we are social creatures and our relationships with other humans are such a HUGE part of who we are, our choices should, ideally, benefit the group or at least not harm the group or make its health worse! We are a constant work-in-progress, continually swinging between yin and yang. REALISTICALLY,  where do you fall on the social wellbeing spectrum?  Reflect and Write.

Notice how the pendulum swings!

As you may have already experienced in your life, humans are imperfect, health is a spectrum, and thus balancing your choices as an individual who lives among other humans is challenging! What I am suggesting here is “relative balance” which happens within the human group– some people get more, some less; some people must give up something, and others get something; and on and on it goes with extremism as pathological. If we completely abolish the political left or ignore it entirely, the whole political organism becomes dysfunctional, just as if we completely ignored the right– same outcome. When we choose to believe that all republicans are bad people and all liberals are good, that dichotomous all-or-nothing thinking polarizes us further and further away from cooperation and unity.  As social selves, we need each other for our individual health and fullest actualization, whether we like it or not.

Just as I explained the relative balance and imbalances that happen within you in your organism, the same is true for the social organism.  I think Modern Life shows how many people are unwilling to make sacrifices within themselves for their own growth, health and actualization AND make sacrifices for the group’s vitality.

Reflect & Write on your Groupish Nature

How groupish are you?

How much of your personal identity is defined by the group?

Reflect on your feelings and emotional life as it relates to relationships and groups.

What important emotional, mental, and physical needs are met by your group membership?

Write about a time where you sacrificed for the sake of “the group” (you define the group).

Write about a time when the group sacrificed for your benefit.

Write about one time when you were unwilling to “let go” a part of yourself when the group demanded it.

Write about one time when you were demanding someone in the group let go of something for you or your group.

Reflect in writing about your emotions, physical sensations, and ideas in response to the prompts above. Even though these are memories, notice both the more visceral and rational qualities of your experiences, as you remember them, and write about them. Just notice your responses.

Individual Values and Shared Human Values

So, making good choices within you and for you is connected to attention and knowing  your values. Living your values rather than follow distractions which include the urges and impulses from within you and the temptations that arise from the external landscape (other people, nature, living in the world) is the challenge of our age.

Another challenge is paying attention to how your values contribute to the health of the human group, shared humanity, because this is important for your own health. Why do you need to know this? Because you are human which means you are social and you need group inclusion to thrive to your fullest individual actualization.  You can’t be an entirely selfish asshole because it benefits nobody (you can be a little selfish, you can be a little tribal– again, it’s the extreme all-or-nothing that causes dysfunction within and “out there”).

What happens if your values conflict with the group’s values or the group’s values aren’t healthy for you or yours aren’t healthy for the group? Well, choices need to be made. Either the group changes, or you change, or you negotiate (ideally); that is, you compromise and cooperate.  Sacrifice, loss, and change (willingly or unwillingly) are how we survive ad thrive in groups. As always, balance is the key on both the individual or personal level (response-ability within one’s inner landscape) and on the community and global level.  If you have not yet noticed, do you see how a person on the inside isn’t so distinct or separate from the “outside” world?

You can choose to put yourself in healthy spaces and surround yourself with people  that support healthy, shared humane and humanitarian values. You can set yourself up, through choice, to minimize or eliminate unhealthy distractions– whether within you or from the forces of the world beyond you. So why do human beings fail to “do the right thing” or “make the logical choice”?  Why is it that  when we KNOW rationally or even by gut instinct, what the “right” thing to do is for our most healthy, authentic selves to flourish, that we fail to ACT accordingly? Because we are emotional, intuitive, fleshy embodied animals with human brains,  that’s why.

How can you be a good group member and be your own best advocate, friend, and wise guide too?

There will always be distractions and pressures pulling you away from your path toward values, and even the various urges, impulses, and thoughts within your own inner landscapes will seemingly be distracting and tempting you to go off course. If you are aware of them because you are paying attention, because you are practicing being mindful, you have a better chance of coping and managing than if you are oblivious and unconscious.

Super-corporations including the social media companies and conglomerates are reaching deeply into your inner landscape and manipulating your emotions, your physiology, and your mind in order to keep your attention, energy, desires, and self-awareness glued to their targets FOR PROFIT. They are manipulating YOU in unhealthy, nefarious, and negative ways, while also providing you with an amazing, progressive, useful tool that can be used for good health, healing, and wellness (individually and socially!) AND this is the conundrum of our modern time. THIS problem and the disconnection from ourselves as emotional, embodied beings is why I created this curriculum.

The wake-up call, a loud bell, and action you can take to defend and protect yourself and those you love is to know thyself. 

There’s no better reason than this to keep up your self-study for self-realization!

Yes– being a healthy human– both individual and part of a larger whole is a delicate and demanding balancing act on a constantly changing landscape—it’s the  challenge of modernity. Embracing the journey as a  learning process is the path to wisdom and vitality, individually and collectively.

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FREE COURSE CONTENT: ATTENTION PRACTICE

WHY STUDY ATTENTION?

We are in a Crisis of Attention

“Besides the benefits that improved management of attention brings to the individual, several social critics and philosophers argue that our society’s decreasing attention is leading us to a new ‘cultural dark age’ in which individuals no longer have the deep, sustained focus necessary for synthesizing and assessing information or expressing complex thoughts. Instead, we live in a world of ‘Present Shock’ in which everything happens now, information is conveyed via memes and tweets, and we no longer have the skill or wisdom to separate the signal from the noise. One could argue that the crises and general malaise we’ve experienced in the West during the past thirty years is, at its core, a crisis of attention. We’re either paying attention to the wrong problems or too distracted by the next “controversy” to solve the issues at hand.  Bottom line: If you want to improve yourself and the world around you, the first step is to learn how to harness your attention. It’s the locomotive of human progress.” — Art of Manliness

PRACTICE
PAYING ATTENTION TO ATTENTION

 In the following practices, you will observe and evaluate your own attention patterns to understand where you are putting your attention, both intentionally and unintentionally, throughout your moments, hours, days…well… your life.

By auditing your attention—playing with it and exercising its various forms, deliberately, using the activities below, you will build your attention “muscle” which will help you be a more conscious learner so you can know yourself better.

Sit still for a hot minute.
Reflect.
Write.

“Meditate” for 2-4 minutes or as long as you want. Focus your attention (selective attention) on your breath going in through the nose and out through the nose. Notice only that. If your attention shifts elsewhere, perhaps to your chest or to the noises in the room, or your feet, or an itch; if it shifts to thinking, or your mind wanders to the past or the future, just notice. Try to bring your attention back to the breath. (It helps to sit up straight or lie down if you want to– it doesn’t matter so much, especially if this is new to you. When people try to “do it the right way” when it comes to meditation, they usually just focus on outcomes rather than the process itself, just the trying. The trying and failing IS THE THING. If you are trying and failing– you’re doing everything perfectly!

AN IMPORTANT NOTE

If any of this causes feelings– anxiety, fatigue, hyper-arousal, sadness, muscular tension…whatever, just notice. Stop if you get to a point where you feel overwhelmed. Do what you need to to calm down. Later, when you are in an even space, reflect on the experience and write about it. Each time you attend to your attention, your experience may vary! You are different each time you try. People vary in the ways they react and respond to paying attention to attention— it only matters that you TRY it and later reflect and record what happens. NO RIGHT OR WRONG; NO JUDGMENT. JUST OBSERVATION TO LEARN.

Reflect, in writing, on your experience paying attention to your attention in step one above. Describe, in detail, exactly what happened with your attention. Don’t just reflect— Write about it! Did your attention remain focused on the breath coming in and out of your nose? Did it wander? Where did your attention shift towards? How many times did it shift and change?

JUST NOTICE

NOTICE and write about: Did you judge your “performance?” Did you get frustrated or disappointed when your attention fell away from the breath? Or did you remain neutral when your attention shifted? WHATEVER YOU EXPERIENCED (THOUGHT, FELT, BEHAVED) JUST WRITE IT DOWN. THIS IS THE PROCESS AND YOU MUST TRUST THAT JUST BY DOING THIS, YOU WILL LEARN AND GROW.

Reflect on this process of noticing your own attention. Free write about your attention, judgment, and the difference between the two. Any other thoughts related to this activity are welcome! This is your personal learning, so you can write about whatever you want for as long as you want. Even if you are frustrated, angry, confused, unsure of yourself, or think this self-study is a waste of time, write about it because this will help you understand the nature of your relationship to your attention (which is really just how you relate to yourself and your experiences in the present moment)!

If you made it this far….you’re building courage AND focus!
Good for you!

NO…LITERALLY— These things are good for your body and mind.

 JOIN US

FOR THE ENTIRE COURSE ON ATTENTION! 

 

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Antidote to Disconnection

The overwhelming problems resulting from loneliness and disconnection from ourselves and from one another in our modern world has motivated me to write a curriculum for self-directed learning for self realization to encourage more connection– within individuals and among people.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is a curriculum designed for people to find out exactly who they are so they can be wise and well. The Guide was inspired by, based on, and part of my Bikram yoga practice.

Growing in Awareness

Bikram’s hatha yoga series and other forms of introspection, including writing and meditation, are my forms of self study. I also learn more about human nature by studying the stories of the Humanities, ancient and modern, East and West, as a way to learn more about myself and our collective human experience.  

I noticed over many years as a high school teacher that the schooling process (institutionalized education) and modern parenting both lack an important focus on the individual person’s interior life.  People don’t talk about the soul or the spiritual. Young people are anxious and depressed for a number of reasons, some of which are the result of cultural conditioning and its over emphasis on “the other,” the material, and the “externals” of the social and economic landscape. The need for interior work is critical to restore balance within individuals and within culture.  Thus, my new purpose as a yoga teacher, writer, and mental health counselor is to bring awareness to this problem of a lack of attention to soul, spirit, and psyche and do whatever I can to help people find more balance in their lives. The first thing I must do is care for myself so that I am able to care for others. 

Focusing Inward for Self-Realization & Wellness

My Bikram yoga practice has changed my understanding of myself and thus has changed my understanding of reality, human nature, and how I live.  I have learned how to consciously learn about myself and that this is, in fact, my responsibility to attend to regularly for a life of quality and purpose.

Yoga is not only physical but psychological and spiritual therapy as well.  I am hopeful others can experience such therapy through yoga practice for growth and transformation, hence my desire to share the details of my own story which led to creating this blog and the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human  Self Study Guide for Wellness.

One striking result of my continual practice of self study for which I am enormously grateful is that I have developed an attitude of openness to my life experiences which has improved and expanded my relationship with myself and with others. I feel more connected to life, to my own mind and body, to others, and to nature, thus more able to overcome fear, anxiety, and the enormous amount of rapid change and chaos of our modern style of living.  Like many others, I had no idea that I would find the wisdom and wellness that comes from self realization when I initially tried Bikram yoga as a form of exercise.  It would be an understatement to say it was a pleasant surprise.

The Mirror: Who am I?

Bikram yogis don’t go to the yoga studio to find happiness, ease, or the answers to all their problems. A Bikram yogi exercises reflection–literally, as he or she looks in the mirror during class and is thus directed to more consciously notice the process of learning more about oneself.

The practice of this form of hatha yoga teaches us to cultivate an open awareness to our limitations: to watch how we think and act; to notice how we respond to our individual limitations and the challenges of and within our environment. We can see how we behave under pressure, in the face of physical or mental challenge; how we calmly respond or irrationally react to fear, change, and pain. We watch how we suffer, resist, or alternately embrace our struggle and fear; how we talk about ourselves to ourselves and judge our own behavior– how we judge our self-critical nature instead of showing ourselves compassion and love.

We notice and observe how we stay stuck with particular thoughts (often negative or untrue upon further examination); how we might cling to and or release from the security of our rituals and habits we have created for ourselves as a way of comforting ourselves and have come to rely on as ways to avoid, deny, or to appease the ego’s desires and expectations.  We observe what it is we are paying attention to and how the attention wanders, flits about, and sometimes settles…or not. It seems that attention has a mind of its own, and perhaps, indeed, there are two minds at work. 

Because of my yoga practice, I see that I am both rational, self-conscious, and aware, and also fleshy and animal in my nature. I learn about what I am like and to accept whatever is without judgment and with compassion.  Sometimes this process  of self realization includes answers, ease, and happiness, but not always. It’s not magic. It’s challenging, a burden meant to be carried in order to grow in wellness and vitality. As the wise Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “No mud, no lotus.”

Reflection

On further reflection upon my yoga practice, I can ask: Do I give myself compassion when I struggle? Can I feel the tightness of resistance in my body from fear? What’s going on within? Who is in the mirror looking back at me? Is that my greatest teacher, or do I shy away from her and over-depend on the wisdom of others instead? Do I trust the “experts” more than I trust and have faith in myself? What more can I learn from what’s happening rather than critically judge it? Where is the root of my suffering? What can I learn from pain? 

Bikram yoga is not only a work out, stress reduction, or an opportunity to wear cute leggings. It’s not intended to be a social practice, though the collective works simultaneously in silent moving meditation together. The energy and love in the room is palpable, and it is encouraging to be in a space where people are becoming more human, more self-aware, struggling to accept and be more of their unique selves. Outsiders who might peek into a class will see bodies moving or lying in stillness, but they cannot see what’s going on inside each person, beneath the sweat and the physical posturing, as we yogis travel our inner landscapes.

Self Discovery

I find out more and more about who I am every time I practice—which is the final destination– to learn, and to be fully present within this process of ongoing change that is “me.” The Bikram series of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises as well as its dialogue delivered by a teacher don’t ever change, so that I can see how much and how often I change, for no other reason than to realize my own impermanence. I don’t keep track of progress or grade myself in our usual culturally prescribed sense of achievement. I simply show up to be present in the moment and experience myself– this changing energy, being, presence, and vitality. 

Honest Practice is All

Yoga is so much more than positioning one’s physical body and balancing. Yoga is about developing more conscious awareness, and the discovery that it is our individual responsibility to continually learn more about who we are to grow and thrive. This is more than striving for and attaining happiness, zen, or tranquility after a day’s hard work; rather, it is engaging honestly in the process of self-realization and self-actualization, which includes the range of human experience, both pleasure and pain. It’s simple, but rarely easy. It is practice to fully experience one’s humanity and ongoing transformation, to actualize potential like a flower petal blooming.

Beyond the Studio a.k.a. Yoga Off the Mat

So, as a result of all I have learned and experienced in Bikram Yoga, I wrote the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide for Wellness based on its principles and philosophy of self-realization. I wrote it to help people transfer what they are learning in their yoga practice within the studio to their lives beyond the studio, as a collection of tools for introspection, including self auditing activities, meditation, yoga practice, and writing. People who already engage in yoga or meditation practice already can benefit too, particularly from the unique 5-Part Self Study Wheel and the many self-auditing activities and resources included.

The Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide is meant to invite people into authentic learning and the process of self realization so that they can connect more deeply with their truest selves so that they can connect more deeply with others. The antidote to disconnection from others is connection with oneself. When each of us knows ourselves better and cares for ourselves with love and compassion, the world will be a better place.

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Simple (not easy) Practice: Becoming Response-able

Becoming “Response-able” for Wisdom & Wellness

For Simple Practice today, observe the way(s) you RESPOND to your experiences.

Hopefully, if you slow down enough and pay attention as outlined below, you can learn something important about yourself and how you are responding to life.

When you learn more about your thoughts and feelings (mind/body), you are becoming more response-able, that is “able to take responsibility” for what’s happening with you, blaming less, and coping better. You have to notice your habits first in order to create optimal, more mindful ones for your wellness. This takes willingness, practice, and commitment to knowing yourself to become more wise and well. Enjoy this challenge!

Choose from any of the options below, and you may like to write about what you learned from this practice after its complete.

A. Pick some thought you think today and notice how you RESPOND to that thought.

Maybe you meditate for like 10 seconds or 10 minutes to notice a thought and the response to a specific thought. Or, just try to sit (or stand/walk/practice a yoga posture) and notice a thought and your response to that thought.

Simple, right? not so easy! Wondering why it’s not so easy?
Read this book for more information about how the mind works.

B. Pick a conversation (with one other person face-to-face) that you will likely be involved in at some point today (in your job or personal life or at the gym, etc…).

Notice how you RESPOND to this person. Focus on the process of stimulus and response that is happening with you, not getting carried away with the other person. This is an exercise to know yourself better, not about the other person. You are being response-able for you, not them.

C. Pick any feeling or emotion you have today and notice how you respond to that emotion.

For example, when you feel hungry, notice how you respond to that feeling. Try to carefully notice exactly what happens in the moment when you notice you are hungry Don’t skip over the thoughts and feelings too quickly, noticing only that you ate food as the sole response. It takes time to feel the sensation, notice you are experiencing it, and then…what comes next, before “doing something” about it. Try to slow way down to notice what’s happening between stimulus and response. Is there a thought or thought pattern (perhaps a usual story) that immediately follows the physical sensation of hunger, feelings associated with hunger?

Another example is anger. Notice how you respond to feeling angry. Notice what happens (without judgment– only to learn about yourself).

Another is anxiety, maybe social anxiety. Notice exactly what is happening with you, in you (body and mind) when you feel anxious.

*Maybe it’s not the thoughts or the feelings or the people that are problematic, but how you are responding to them. Perhaps you need to continue to learn more to become more response-able.

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Writing for Self Realization

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.”
–Elie Wiesel

Write to know yourself.

Writing is a proven method for identifying, clarifying, organizing, and processing thoughts and emotions (Faber, 2016; Pennebaker & Smyth, 2016), and it’s an extremely useful modality for improving health and wellness (Pennebaker & Smyth, 2016). Your writing is essential to the process of discovering who you are and a critical tool for self study. Writing will help you analyze and evaluate the results of some of the activities contained in the Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human Self Study Guide.

pennebakerbook

Writing as a Ritual for Self-Care

Disconnecting from distractions to reconnect to your inner self is powerful act for learning. It’s unrealistic to never use electronic devices as part of self study, but creating a ritual for writing with paper and pen is a good idea to make it a special, intentional and intimate event, rather than just another task on your “to-do” list. In other words, make writing for self understanding distinct and different from other routines and communication habits.

The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end–you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”
——Jiddu Krishnamurti

Sitting still, focusing your attention on writing, and slowing down to move your hand across the page can be meditative, and thus highly beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing. As well, understanding language and consciously attending to how you use it will help you see when the words you use make you suffer and when they make you well. Language is a key part of how we relate to ourselves and the world. We ought to spend time observing how our language defines us– how what we think and say (or write) defines our experiences (or contributes to avoidance of experiences). The more you play with language and practice using it, the more insight you will gain about yourself, especially your mind. 

artistsway

I recommend reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (2016) to learn more about why daily journal writing can be so powerful for your self study and personal development because writing isn’t just for “creative types” but a way for all modern humans to articulate their uniqueness and truth.

References

Bakis, M. (2019). Classic Wisdom for the Modern Human: A Self-Study Guide for Wellness. Amazon.

Cameron, J. (2016). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, 25th Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Faber, S.K. (2016, March). Expressive Writing for Physical and Mental Health. PsychologyToday. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201603/expressiv-writing-physical-and-mental-health 

Pennebaker, J. & Smyth, J. (2016). Opening Up by Writing it Down, Third Edition: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain. New York:The Guilford Press.

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Self Realization

Over the past couple of years, I have written about everything I have directly experienced in my own life as well as the wisdom I have received from great mentors both ancient and modern, from East and West, about the interesting process of self realization, self actualization, and wellness.

Much of my personal evolution has come from direct experience practicing Bikram Yoga. When I discovered Bikram Yoga, or shall I say when it found me, I found the existentialism, spiritualism, mysticism, and theories about consciousness and the unconscious I had studied in one form or another in my formal education, what I had only ever experienced intellectually, embodied in a wholly physical experience.

I became far more aware of who I am and what it means to be human in a 90 minute heated yoga class. I fell into self realization by accident. I discovered my true self (in distinct contrast to the social roles I’d been conditioned to adopt and adhere to for a sense of belonging, approval, and currency– that is– who I thought I was). I became aware of awareness, the conscious witness, the observer of my “small” self, by chance, and without expectation, and without complicated academic preparation and study. I know exactly where my mat was in the room when I experienced more awareness and insight. It was not intellectual. Lucky me.

I continue to look in the mirror each day and face my suffering only to be with it, and for no other reason. That is a process. There’s no product, no goal, no achievement, no desire for a better waistline. The mirror is not about vanity, and I am not looking for answers. It’s a simple process, though not easy. It’s become my meditation, my inward bound journey to freedom.

So, I figure, why not share my experience of transformation through Bikram yoga in order to invite others to stumble into more conscious awareness of their truth too? Pay it forward. It is likely that Bikram Yoga, since it is less esoteric, makes self realization more accessible, as it is far more realistic for everyday Westerners to drop by a local studio to practice each day than it is for them to sojourn to India or do a 500 day silent meditation retreat or something stereotypically more “spiritually rigorous.” You don’t have to perform the rituals of a priest or monk to know who you really are. No, you can “be free where you are,” as Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn says, no matter who or where you are. The path to freedom is within the inner landscape, not on the outer one with specific conditions meant for your transformation.